So, over the years, I’ve written long rants about how much I hate mowing grass. Separately, I’ve written long rants about how much I hate raking leaves. Both were written as questioning rants about how they are essentially “for show” actions that don’t actually do much but improve aesthetic appearances in yards. (And on top of that, they can be often really bad for the local environment, depending on the part of the country.)
But something funny happened over the last couple of weeks, as a massive tree decided to vomit the last of its leaves onto my yard: I realized that I love mowing leaves.
This seems like an unusual thing to say, but the benefits of this approach are pretty obvious if you break things down. As long as things are dry, going over a pile of leaves your yard on a mulch setting can be an incredibly efficient way of laying waste to those leaves, helping to break down the leaves into nutrient-rich elements of the soil. You are helping to push along the natural part of the decomposition process.
On top of all that, part of what makes raking a frustrating part of the gig is that there’s a lot of unnecessary back-bending that often becomes harder as we age. And making things worse is that you have to figure out a way to get rid of the leaves.
From this perspective, the case for mulching instead of raking is pretty strong. While leaf blowers can seem like nice shortcuts, they are often quite loud, significantly louder than lawn mowers, and tend to upset neighbors. On top of that, unless you have a composting pile, you’re putting leaves into massive bags made of plastic. There were some years in the past when, as the person in charge of raking the leaves, I ended up filling up a dozen or more bags multiple times in a season. This year, I filled up some bags, but it’s been four, across two leaf-mulching sessions.
Sure, there are some downsides—the mower tends to push leaves around, and you can’t really do this with wet leaves (moist to dry only recommended, per home-improvement icon Bob Vila)—but it is a case where the addition of a gadget makes everything just a little less awful and your back just a little less sore.
Now to spend the rest of my day not thinking about leaves.
Time limit given ⏲: 30 minutes
Time left on clock ⏲: 9 minutes, 27 seconds